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Marine Transportation Safety Information Letter 01/24

June 13, 2024

Director General, Marine Safety and Security
Transport Canada
Dorval QC H4Y 1G7

Subject :

Marine Transportation Safety Information Letter 01/24 (occurrence M23A0169)
Submersible operations in Canadian waters

On 18 June 2023, the submersible Titan, with 5 people on board, was diving to the Titanic wreck site 325 nautical miles south-southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland and Labrador. A Canadian-flagged cargo vessel, the Polar Prince, had transported the submersible to the site and was providing surface support. Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes after the Titan began its descent, the surface support team on the Polar Prince lost contact with it. A search and rescue operation was initiated on the evening of 18 June. On 22 June, the United States (U.S.) Coast Guard confirmed that debris found on the ocean floor near the Titanic wreckage consisted of pieces of the missing submersible. There were no survivors.

The investigation determined that the Titan and its custom-built integrated launch platform were first imported into Canada from the U.S. in June 2021, over land, and operated over the summer before being returned to the U.S. In June 2022, the Titan and its platform were again imported into Canada from the U.S. and operated over the summer months. Over the winter of 2022–23, the Titan and its platform remained in Canada.

In 2021 and 2022, the submersible and its platform were transported to various dive sites on the deck of the Canadian-flagged vessel Horizon Arctic. The submersible and its platform were launched from the deck of the Horizon Arctic, and this vessel also provided support to the submersible while diving. In 2023, the support vessel for the submersible was changed to the Polar Prince. This vessel towed the Titan and its platform to dive locations, rather than carrying it on deck. 

While the occurrence dive took place at the site of the Titanic wreck, the investigation has determined that between 13 July 2021 and 12 June 2023, the Titan conducted 7 dives in Canadian waters and an additional 3 dives in Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Between 30 June 2021 and 18 June 2023, the Titan conducted a further 19 dives outside Canadian waters and the Canadian EEZ. For each of these 19 dives, the Titan was transported to the dive site from a Canadian port and returned to a Canadian port using a Canadian-flagged vessel. During these operations, the Titan and its platform were not registered or certified in Canada or any other country.

The investigation has also identified that there have been other submersibles with people on board operating within Canadian waters and the Canadian EEZ, both before and after June 2023. Some of these submersibles are registered in Canada, some are registered outside of Canada, and some are without registration. The investigation has also established that there are Canadian regulatory requirements regarding these operations, and there is an internal Transport Canada (TC) policy on passenger submersible craft dated June 2005. However, the investigation has been unable to confirm whether these submersibles have been subject to oversight by TC or other certifying bodies.

The foregoing is provided for whatever follow-up action is deemed appropriate. The TSB would appreciate being advised of any action that is taken in this regard. Upon completion of investigation M23A0169, the Board will release its report into the occurrence.

Yours sincerely,

Original letter signed by

Lija Bickis
Acting Director, Marine Investigations